Dansm's Guitar Chord Theory
Terms Used In Music Theory
These lessons contain a lot of music theory terms which I couldn't avoid using. I decided to provide definitions for them here. If you still have questions about terms, e-mail me. I ignore minor scales and keys in these definitions, because most popular music does not use them. Also, if anyone has anything to add to these definitions to make them clearer, please e-mail me. The list is in alphabetical order.
barre
dan The use of your index finger to hold down more than one string at one fret in a single chord, in order to build chords with that fret as the "nut".
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barre chord
dan A guitar chord in which your index finger barres all strings at one fret, and the rest of the chord is built using that fret as the nut. For example, in an F# chord, the index finger barres the second fret, and the other three fingers make an E chord using the second fret as the nut.
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bass note
dan The lowest note played in a chord, shown either by the chord name (e.g. E in E) or the note listed after a slash (e.g. F# in G/F#).
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chord
dan Three or more pitches played simultaneously, usually a root, third, and fifth, though sometimes a seventh is added.
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circle of fifths
dan A musical tool showing the relatedness of keys.
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closely related keys
dan The fifth up and fifth down (fourth up) from any key. For example, the keys closely related to G are C (fifth down) and D (fifth up).
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diminished fifth
dan An interval made up of two whole steps and two half steps. For example, the distance between D and Ab is a diminished fifth.
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diminished chord
dan A chord consisting of a minor third and a diminished fifth. For example, a D diminished chord (D) contains D, F, and Ab.
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dominant
dan The fifth note of the major scale. The major chord built on the dominant, designated V, leads strongly toward the tonic.
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fifth
dan In a scale, the distance between a certain note and another note four notes above it. The certain note is counted as I, the note four notes above that is V.
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half step
dan The smallest recognized interval in Western music. The distance represented by one fret on a guitar is a half step.
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interval
dan The musical distance between two notes, measured by the number of whole and half steps between the two notes.
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inversion
dan The use of notes in the chord other than the root as the bass note (e.g. F# bass in a D chord).
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key
dan The basis of musical sounds in a piece. Each key uses the notes and chords of the corresponding major scale. The key is named after the tonic (e.g. the tonic in the key of A is A).
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leading
dan The tendency that certain notes and chords have to resolve to other specific notes or chords.
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leading tone
dan The seventh note of the major scale, one half step below the tonic. This note leads strongly toward the tonic.
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major chord
dan A chord consisting of a major third and a perfect fifth. For example, a D major chord (D) contains D, F#, and A.
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major scale
dan A group of eight notes with the following whole step/half step pattern between them: W-W-H-W-W-W-H. For example, the A major scale consists of A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, and A.
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major seventh
dan An interval made up of five whole steps and one half step. For example, the distance between D and C# is a major seventh.
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major third
dan An interval made up of two whole steps. For example, the distance between D and F# is a major third.
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minor chord
dan A chord consisting of a minor third and a perfect fifth. For example, a D minor chord (Dm) contains D, F, and A.
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minor seventh
dan An interval made up of four whole steps and two half steps. For example, the distance between D and C is a minor seventh.
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minor third
dan An interval made up of one whole step and one half step. For example, the distance between D and F is a minor third.
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modulate
dan To change keys.
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muting
dan Pressing your finger against a string while playing a chord to avoid playing that string. Muting is represented by an x in my chord diagrams (as in E/G#: 4x2400).
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perfect fifth
dan An interval made up of three whole steps and one half step. For example, the distance between D and A is a perfect fifth.
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resolve
dan A musical progression which brings finality to part of a piece.
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root
dan The note a chord is built on.
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seventh
dan In a scale, the distance between a certain note and another note six notes above it. The certain note is counted as I, the note six notes above that is vii.
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seventh chord
dan A chord consisting of a major third, a perfect fifth, and a minor seventh. For example, a D seventh chord (D7) contains D, F#, A, and C. Major seventh chords (notated maj7) contain a major seventh instead of a minor seventh.
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suspended chord
dan A chord containing either the root, second, and fifth (sus2), or the root, fourth, and fifth (sus4).
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third
dan In a scale, the distance between a certain note and another note two notes above it. The certain note is counted as I, the note two notes above that is iii.
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tonic
dan The note on which the major scale is based. The major chord built on the tonic, designated I, is the eventual goal of any song.
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transpose
dan Moving the musical position of a piece, keeping all intervals as they were in the original piece. For example, if you have C, F, and G (I, IV, and V), and you want to transpose to the key of G, then use the I, IV, and V of G, which are G, C, and D.
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whole step
dan An interval made up of two half steps. The distance represented by two frets on a guitar is a whole step.

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1997 Daniel E. Smith.